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Jackson Helps Storm Defeat Sparks 90-71

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SEATTLE (AP) _ The idea of playing at least the next two weeks without teammate Sue Bird brought a frown to face of Seattle's Lauren Jackson. ``I don't want to play without her,'' Jackson said. ``She's my best mate.'' Jackson didn't have reason to be disappointed with her effort Tuesday night. The All-Star starter burned the Sparks again, scoring 11 of her 23 points in the third quarter of the Storm's 90-71 win over Los Angeles.

But afterward the talk was about Bird, who will undergo arthroscopic surgery on her left knee Friday in Connecticut. Optimistically, Bird plans to miss just two weeks. She has loose particles in her knee, and has been bothered by the injury for a few weeks.

Bird tried to schedule the surgery around the All-Star break _ in which she was voted a starter _ with the hope of being fully recovered for a late-season run and the WNBA playoffs in August. She also took into account her role on the U.S. national team that faces Olympic qualifying in September.

``To be honest, maybe if I had nothing after this I would try and gut it out. But then (my doctor) said it could get worse,'' Bird said. ``Playing on it one extra week wasn't the end of the world. Playing on it another two and a half, three months, that could have been a problem.''

Seattle sent Bird off to surgery with an impressive win, one where Bird contributed 10 points and 11 assists.

Jackson, the reigning WNBA player of the week, was 7-fot-15 from the floor as Seattle won for the fourth time in its last five games. Jackson matched her career high with 35 points the last time she played Los Angeles on June 24. Betty Lennox added 18 points for the Storm, who play seven of the next eight on the road. Seattle is just 2-5 away from home this season.

``We've done so well at KeyArena, now we need to carry it on the road,'' Seattle coach Anne Donovan said.

Seattle took a 40-36 lead into halftime after Jackson's 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half. The momentum carried into the third quarter, where Seattle scored 20 of the first 26 points, eight of those coming from Jackson. The Storm extended their lead to 20 on Lennox's off-balance putback at the third quarter buzzer and led by 24 in the fourth.

Los Angeles continued to struggle since the abrupt retirement of All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw on June 11. Los Angeles won its first two games after its leading scorer suddenly walked away, but the Sparks have dropped seven of their last nine and are two games behind Seattle for fourth in the Western Conference.

Reserve Kiesha Brown led Los Angeles with 16 points, but she had little help. Leading scorers Marta Fernandez and Taj McWilliams-Franklin were both held under double figures. McWilliams-Franklin did not start, still bothered by a hamstring injury, and scored just four points in 13 minutes.

``We've had a lot happen to this team _ losing Lisa (Leslie) to maternity leave, losing Holdsclaw, one of the best players in this league, five games into the season,'' Sparks' coach Michael Cooper said. ``We're having to make adjustments.''

Bird will have surgery at the University of Connecticut Health Center, by Dr. Michael Joyce, who did Bird's previous knee surgeries.
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